Perspectives on genetically modified foods from world religions and indigenous traditions.
Introduction Conrad G. Brunk and Harold Coward A lively debate about genetically modifi ed foods has engaged around the world since their fi rst introduction onto the markets of many countries in the last decades of the twentieth century. The debate has been especially intense in Europe, Japan, and parts of Africa and has led in many instances to moratoria on the introduction of genetically modifi ed crops into the agriculture of the societies and strict requirements for the labeling of genetically modifi ed foods and food ingredients produced in or imported into the country. This debate has been uncharacteristically subdued in North America, where these products were fi rst grown for commercial use and sent to markets for consumption. Public concern or opposition was limited primarily to small, often marginalized, environmental or consumer groups but did not become widespread as in other regions. One reason for this may have been that government regulators in Canada and the United States approved these products for the market with no public announcement that they were doing so and certainly without any prior public consultation, in contrast to the practice in most European countries. Indeed, most people in North America have been until very recently completely unaware that much of the food they are purchasing is from genetically modifi ed corn, canola, soybeans, and other crops, and that genetically modifi ed or cloned food animals have been developed and applications for their market approval submitted to their regulators. Although public awareness is now more widespread in North America, levels of concern over GM food are still fairly low on the public’s list of political priorities. One concern, however, is not low—that of the desire for labeling of these products in order to give consumers a choice whether or not to purchase them.